NBA 2K20 Trailer Angers Gamers for Featuring Gambling and Loot Boxes

  • NBA 2K20 criticized for showing gambling-heavy content instead of basketball gameplay
  • Trailer shows popular streamers hitting jackpots to make gambling look exciting
  • Game is rated for players of all ages, and not just adults
  • Critics fear it could fuel addiction habits, video removed from official YouTube pages since
graphic of a game loot box
Fans have criticized the NBA 2K20 developer after the video game trailer depicted loot boxes and casino game-heavy gameplay instead of basketball. [Image: YouTube.com]

Trailer content gambling-heavy

The video gaming community is lashing out at publisher 2K Games and developer Visual Concepts after Monday’s release of the trailer for the NBA 2K20 MyTeam game mode. The issue at hand: the entire duration of the video highlights loot box and gambling mechanics for a basketball video game.

The two-minute trailer features virtually no actual gameplay, instead focusing on card-pack opening and casino-type games like pachinko, slots, and prize wheels.

The two-minute trailer features virtually no actual gameplay

2K Games’ annual NBA video game launches next week at a $60 price tag. In the United States, it is rated “E” for everyone. in Europe, it is rated for ages 3 and up.

Loot boxes controversial

The video game industry has been under fire in recent years for the prevalence of loot boxes, or what are often called “surprise mechanics”. Some jurisdictions have forced game developers to remove loot boxes from their games, and others have discussed regulation.

In NBA 2K20’s MyTeam mode, gamers open loot boxes in the form of card packs to try to collect players and build a team. The goal is to find that rare, powerful player in a pack.

Where 2K is taking significant heat is in how it is using casino elements, not just loot boxes, in a game meant for players of all ages. In the trailer, popular NBA 2K streamers CashNasty and Kris “LSK” London are shown spinning a prize wheel, playing a pachinko mini-game, and pulling a slot machine. Of course, they win something great and get excited. Much of this is not new, but it is the blatant marketing that has upset people.

The ease with which the streamers are seemingly hitting jackpots and the thrills they appear to be experiencing were also viewed as overly deceptive.

Video game fans incensed

Viewers reacted strongly in their comments to the trailer published on 2K United Kingdom’s YouTube page.

Some remarked on “too much Basketball in this Casino Game” and asked “So, how much did you pay for the PEGI 3 rating?” Another commented:

There’s literally more screen time for the loot boxes and gambling than the actual gameplay in their own trailer.”

The UK YouTube page trailer had just 202 likes to 24,000 dislikes at the time of this writing, and had already been removed by publication. The U.S. version of the trailer was taken down even earlier.

Gambling elements viewed as predatory

Some fans of the NBA 2K series have noted that a number of casino games are free to play, with turns earned from accomplishing things in the MyTeam mode. Meanwhile, critics have pointed out that one’s ability to get to the mini-games is improved by spending money to create a better team.

The larger condemnation revolves around the behavior that the gambling mechanics reinforce, particularly because the game is rated for all ages.

A Reddit user named “TheSonicFan” wrote of the risks of such a game leading to “an addiction habit fueled by real money”. The post said: “Lets (sic) not pretend NBA 2K fanboys that 2K Sports put that in there as a fun mechanism and not a means to get children or overgrown manchildren such as yourselves to invest heavily in the game’s monetization.”

TheSonicFan also emphasized that “It has a literal casino inside of it, and it being ‘free’ does not take away from what psychology it’s trying to EXPLOIT”.

Different ratings may be warranted

Many in the video gaming community have pointed to the guidelines on both the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) and Pan European Game Information (PEGI) websites to conclude that NBA 2K20 should not be rated for all ages.

ESRB’s rating categories show that it should be at least “T”, for teen, as the game at a minimum contains “simulated gambling”. Gambling with real money would warrant an “A”, or an Adults-Only, rating.

The PEGI rating, gamers believe, should be at least “12”, as the game contains “Gambling as it is normally carried out in real life casinos or gambling halls.”